Tag Archives: prison and social security disability checks

Can I get disability for my chronic fatigue syndrome?

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Social Security Disability

chronic_fatigueAccording to information from the National Institutes of Health, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause severe and ongoing tiredness that cannot be improved by simply resting and that does not result from another underlying disorder. The exact cause of the condition remains a mystery, but some have theorized that exposure to the Epstein-Barr virus might be to blame. Age, gender, prior illnesses, and stress are also believed to play a role. Symptoms of CFS can be wide ranging and include sore throat, headache, low-grade fever, painful joints, memory or concentration problems, swollen glands, and generalized muscle weakness.

According to the Social Security Administration’s Fact Sheet, you must prove that the symptoms of your CFS prevent you from working in order to qualify for disability benefits. To make this determination, the SSA will use the medical evidence you have provided in support of your claim to evaluate whether your symptoms reach the level of severity necessary to qualify for disability.

The diagnosis of CFS requires that you experience at least four of the following symptoms for at least six months:

• memory or concentration problems that cause a serious reduction in your level of activity;
• frequent sore throats;
• tender lymph nodes in the neck or under the arm;
• muscle pain;
• pain in multiple joints without redness or swelling;
• headaches of a different magnitude then those that you had prior to the onset of CFS;
• sleep that never leaves you feeling refreshed; and
• a general feeling of being unwell that lasts at least 24 hours following a period of exertion.

Your medical records must contain documentation that satisfies the above criteria for a diagnosis of CFS and that shows these symptoms did not begin prior to the onset of your chronic fatigue. If your medical records show that the symptoms predate your CFS then your disability claim will likely be denied given that something else may be to blame for your condition.

CFS can be an especially tricky disease to document clinically. Medical tests don’t always capture the severity of the illness and how terribly it can impact a person’s quality of life. It is important to understand going into the process that the SSA will not approve a disability claim based on the description of symptoms alone, though how symptoms affect your daily life is considered in the decision.

If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits and have questions, call The Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation today.

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Can I get both worker’s compensation and Social Security disability benefits?

Can I get both worker’s compensation and Social Security disability benefits?

Workers’ compensation pays benefits to employees who suffer an injury at work or experience a work-related illness. Benefits for workers’ compensation include medical treatment and money for the partial replacement of lost wages. For an employee who cannot work while recovering from an injury or work-related illness, workers’ compensation can pay temporary total disability benefits. In cases in which the injury or work-related illness has long-term or permanent consequences, an employee can receive permanent disability benefits. When an employee dies as the result of an injury or work-related illness, then the employee’s dependents can receive survivor benefits. In general, workers’ compensation is a program run by state governments.

Similarly, Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) provides benefits to insured workers with disabilities, or in other words, to those who: (1) have been employed for at least five of the last ten years; (2) have paid FICA (“Federal Insurance Contributions Act”) taxes; and (3) have a “disability” as the Social Security Administration defines the term. A disability, for purposes of Social Security, is a serious medical condition that lasts (or has lasted) for more than a year and prevents someone from being gainfully employed. In addition, SSDI will provide benefits to the disabled children of insured workers, so long as the children became disabled before they reached the age of 22, as well as to the disabled surviving spouses of insured workers who have died. Generally, SSDI is administered by the federal government.

A person can receive workers’ compensation and SSDI benefits at the same time, but workers’ compensation benefits might reduce the amount of SSDI benefits. Under the Social Security Administration’s rules, a person who receives workers’ compensation benefits and Social Security disability benefits at the same time may not receive combined benefits that amount to more than 80 percent of the person’s average current earnings before the person became disabled. For example, if a person earned $4,000.00 per month before becoming disabled, then the person would be eligible to receive $2,200.00 per month in SSDI benefits after becoming disabled. If that same person were also to receive $2,000.00 per month in benefits from workers’ compensation, then the person’s SSDI benefits would be reduced to $200.00 per month to comply with the Social Security Administration’s 80 percent rule.

If you have a current or potential worker’s compensation claim and are interested in applying for SSDI benefits, or if you simply want to be sure that you are receiving the maximum SSDI benefits for which you are eligible, then you should consider speaking with an attorney who has experience with Social Security law in order to minimize the off-set. Call the Nationwide Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation today.

Posted in Personal Injury, Social Security SSD/SSI | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

If the Veterans Administration determines that I am disabled, will the Social Security Administration also find that I am disabled?

If the Veterans Administration determines that I am disabled, will the Social Security Administration also find that I am disabled?      

The Veterans Administration (“VA”) and the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) have their own, independent rules for determining whether someone is disabled for purposes of receiving disability benefits. Under the VA’s guidelines, someone who is not completely disabled can qualify for disability benefits. In other words, the VA recognizes partial disabilities (in terms of percentages) as well as total disabilities.

The SSA, however, generally recognizes only total disabilities. Under the SSA’s guidelines, a disability is a serious medical condition (mental or physical) that has lasted (or will last) for at least one year and prevents a person from engaging in any substantial, gainful activity. This definition incorporates not only the type of disability (for example, post-traumatic stress disorder or chronic heart failure) but also the extent or severity of the disability. As a result, someone could have a type of disability recognized by the SSA, but nevertheless not be eligible for Social Security disability benefits if the severity of the disability were found to be insufficient. A mental or physical condition severe enough to qualify as a disability under the SSA’s rules would likely be considered at least a 90% disability under the VA’s rules.

At the same time, a determination by the VA that someone is disabled does not necessarily mean that the SSA will also make the same determination. For example, even if the VA determines that someone is 90% or 100% disabled, the SSA does not automatically reach the same conclusion. The SSA requires that everyone who applies for disability benefits must submit medical documentation to prove the type and severity of their medical condition. Under the SSA’s regulations, only documentation provided by certain physicians is sufficient to establish that someone has a qualifying disability. The SSA does consider other evidence, such as a person’s own statements or disability evaluations by other government agencies, but the SSA only considers the other evidence for purposes of judging the extent or severity of a disability.

A disability determination from the VA can be useful for purposes of applying for Social Security disability benefits, but it will not be binding on the SSA. In many cases, a 90% or a 100% disability finding by the VA will go a long way towards proving a disability to the SSA, but it will probably not—by itself—be enough to establish a disability under the SSA’s rules. If the VA has determined that you are disabled and you have questions about how that could help you qualify for Social Security disability benefits, then you should consult an attorney familiar with Social Security law.

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Can I draw early social security retirement and disability at the same time?

Can I draw early retirement benefits from Social Security and receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits at the same time?

Lately, a number of my clients have asked me whether they can receive early retirement benefits from Social Security and, at the same time, also receive Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) benefits. Believe it or not, the answer is “yes” in many cases.  Suppose that Susan B. Anthony, who is currently 62 years old and lives in Troy, Ohio, worked for 30 years at the Spacely Sprockets factory in Wilmington. She has leukemia, and as a result of her condition, she had to stop working on June 1, 2010. At that time, she did not apply for SSDI benefits. Now that she has reached age 62, she would like to begin drawing early retirement benefits from Social Security. She also wants to apply for SSDI benefits.

Normally, were Susan to elect to draw early retirement benefits, the amount she would receive would be reduced by 25% compared to drawing benefits at full retirement age. For example, if Susan would have received a monthly retirement benefit of $1,000.00 had she retired at age 66 (the full retirement age for someone born in 1949), then her monthly early retirement benefit would be $750.00. If she were married, then her spouse’s benefit would be reduced by 30%. Furthermore, Susan’s monthly benefit would not increase once she reached full retirement age—the 25% reduction would be permanent.

In Susan’s case, however, she stopped working as the result of her disability. Because her disability forced her to stop working before she reached full retirement age (again, Susan is currently 62; her full retirement age would have been 66), Susan could effectively receive her full retirement benefit if her application for SSDI benefits is approved.

Assume that Susan began drawing her early retirement benefits shortly after her 62nd birthday, which was July 1, 2011. She then applied for SSDI benefits. On her application, she listed June 1, 2010, as the date on which her disability began. A decision on an application for SSDI benefits usually takes several months, and can sometimes take longer. Suppose, therefore, that the Social Security Administration approves Susan’s application for SSDI benefits on December 1, 2011, and that it determines that Susan’s disability began on June 1, 2010.

In this scenario, Susan would be paid her SSDI benefits retroactively from January, 2011, through July, 2011—when she started receiving her early retirement benefits. Then, for August, 2011, through December, 2011, Susan would be paid the difference between her early retirement benefit, which she already received, and her full retirement benefit. From December, 2011, onward, Susan would receive SSDI payments in the amount of her full, monthly retirement benefit. Effectively, because Susan’s early retirement was the product of her disability, the Social Security Administration treats her as if she had stopped working at her full retirement age.

Keep in mind that the foregoing example only applies when the Social Security Administration approves an application for SSDI benefits. For instance, had her application for SSDI benefits had been denied, Susan would have received only her reduced, early retirement benefit.

In addition, the amount of Susan’s monthly benefit would also have been different had the Social Security Administration determined that her disability began on a later date. Had the Social Security Administration determined that Susan’s disability began on September 1, 2011, then Susan would be treated as if she retired two months early (i.e. full retirement age less, less two months). In other words, if the date on which Susan’s disability officially began (as determined by the Social Security Administration) came before the date on which she stopped working, then she would be treated as if she had stopped working at her full retirement age. On the other hand, if the date on which her disability officially began came after the date on which she stopped working, then she would be treated as if she had retired early.

Drawing Social Security early retirement benefits and receiving SSDI benefits at the same time is possible. For some, this is the best option. For others, waiting until full retirement age to begin drawing benefits is the best option. If you have questions about early retirement and SSDI benefits please contact the Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation.

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Can I get Social Security disability for having sleep apnea?

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by moments during which a sleeping person is unable to move their respiratory muscles or maintain airflow through the nose and mouth. In short, this means a person stops breathing for short periods of time. Generally those suffering from sleep apnea stop breathing for 10 to 30 seconds at a time while they sleep. These short periods without air can happen up to 400 times ever evening.

Those who are overweight are at an increased risk of developing sleep apnea, as fat deposits can develop in the neck and then block the airway. Those suffering from the disorder, perhaps unsurprisingly, sleep very badly and wake up most mornings still feeling tired.

There are two types of sleep apnea, first and most common is obstructive sleep apnea which occurs when something blocks the windpipe. Central sleep apnea, by comparison, is rare. Central sleep apnea is related to the central nervous system, and occurs when the brain fails to send the proper signals to the muscles used for breathing. Sleep apnea can be treated or improved by wearing a positive airway pressure device at night. These devices are masks worn over the face to assist with breathing.

While many people who have sleep apnea will have a hard time qualifying for disability, those who have suffered complications from sleep apnea are more likely to qualify. For instance, if you have pulmonary vascular hypertension, or heart trouble such as cor pulmonale, or a severe cognitive impairment that resulted from your lack of sleep, you may be eligible for benefits. The SSA lists certain criteria for sleep-related disorders, and if you fulfill the requirements, you will be approved for disability benefits.

The first thing the SSA looks for is a sign of cognitive impairment. Chronic sleep disruptions caused by apnea can affect daytime alertness, intellectual ability, memory, and mood. But to qualify for disability benefits, your symptoms must be severe. The SSA requires that your sleep apnea has caused cognitive or mood changes that limit your activities, your ability to function socially, or your ability to focus and keep up with work. These can include severe personality changes, memory problems, delusions or hallucinations, emotional instability or a loss of more than 15 IQ points.

Another way that those suffering from the effects of sleep apnea can receive disability benefits is if they have cor pulmonale. This is an enlarged right heart ventricle caused by hypertension which can result from years of sleep apnea. To prove that your cor pulmonale is severe enough to keep you from working, your doctor must have evidence of either: high blood pressure in the pulmonary artery or extremely low oxygen levels in your blood.

If you think you may be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits and have questions, call The Law Offices of John T. Nicholson at 1-800-596-1533 for a free consultation today.

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